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CANDIDE STUDY GUIDE

While Candide is without a doubt a farcical, humorous, and far-fetched tale, a


seriousness lies beneath its satirical veneer. Candide is the story of an innocent
young man embarking on a series of adventures during which he discovers much
evil in the world. Throughout his journey Candide believes in and adheres to the
philosophy of his teacher, Pangloss, that all is for the best in the best of all
possible worlds. This philosophy was prevalent during Voltaires day, and
Candide is Voltaires scathing response to what he saw as an absurd belief that
for its followers, the Optimists, was an easy way to rationalize evil and suffering.
Candide was composed mainly as an attack on Gottfried Leibniz, the main
proponent of Optimism. Candide was also written in opposition to Alexander
Popes Essay on Man, which espouses that partial evil is for the greater good.
Though he was by no means a pessimist, Voltaire refused to believe that what
happens is always for the best.
Voltaires vehement response was triggered in part by two catastrophic events:
an earthquake in Lima, Peru, in 1746, and an even more devastating earthquake
in Lisbon, Spain, that killed fifty thousand people in 1755. Incensed that the
Optimists were comforting the earthquake victims by assuring them that this
event had happened for the best, Voltaire wrote Pome sur le desastre de
Lisbonne (1756), in which he expresses sympathy for the earthquake victims and
lashes out at the Optimists. In the introduction to the poem, Voltaire addresses
their callousness by writing: The heirs of the dead would not come into their
fortunes, masons would grow rich in rebuilding the city, beasts would grow fat on
corpses buried in the ruins; such is the natural effect of natural causes. So dont
worry about your own particular evil; you are contributing to the general good.
Voltaire again confronted the mockery of this belief in Candide, which he wrote
three years later in 1759.
Candide is rooted in historical events of the time, including the Seven Years
War, the execution of Admiral Byng in 1847, and the war between England and
France for Canadian territory. Furthering this time of political unrest was the
beginning of the enlightenment period during which an educated elite called the
Philosophes including Voltaire and other well-known figures such as Denis
Diderot began questioning European beliefs and institutions and speaking out
against intolerance and injustice. While extremely popular with the Parisian
public, his contemporaries, and even royalty, Voltaire himself was subjected to
injustices (particularly his imprisonment in the Bastille for writing a satire about
the Regent of France) that are believed to have influenced his writing of Candide.
Owing to its scandalous nature, Candide was published clandestinely and
anonymously, and its exact publication date is unknown. However, in midJanuary of 1759, Voltaires publisher sent 1,000 copies of Candide to Paris, and
by late February Voltaires identity was revealed. He police were ordered to seize
all copies of Candide that could be found, but the controversy only served to

further fuel the books popularity and by the end of the year, at least seventeen
editions of the work had been published.
Religious officials, however, pronounced the book full of dangerous principles
concerning religion and tending to marl depravation. The critic Madame de Stael
remarked that Candide was a work of infernal gaiety by a writer who laughs
like a demon, or like a monkey at the miseries of this human race with which he
has nothing in common. Nonetheless, the reading public adored Candide, and
the phrase Let us eat Jesuit was spoken repeatedly, and since the late
nineteenth century Candide has been recognized as a masterpiece. Even
Gustave Flaubert admitted that he read Candide one hundred times and used it
as a model in his own writing.
ABOUT VOLTAIRE
From his birth in Paris in 1694, Voltaires life was filled with turmoil. He was never
on good terms with his father, Francois, or his elder brother, Armand. He
believed his real father was an officer and songwriter named Rochebrune. His
mother died when he was seven, and after her death he rebelled against his
family, and began a close relationship with his godfather, the Abbe de
Chateauneuf, a freethinker and epicurean. Voltaire attended the Jesuit college of
Louis-le-Grant in Paris, where he grew to love literature and the theater.
At the age of twenty-two, Voltaire was exiled to Sully-sur-Loire for seven months
for writing a satire of the Duke of Orleans, the ruling Regent of France. The next
year he wrote another satire that resulted in his imprisonment in the Bastille for
eleven months. In 1718, he began using the name Voltaire, rejecting the family
name he had long detested (Francois-Marie Arouet). That same year his first
play, Oedipe, was staged, and his epic poem La Ligue was published in 1723 to
great popularity. Voltaire spent several years as a member of the royal court of
Louis XV at Versailles during which time he was also at the height of his success
in Paris.
In 1726, his life changed dramatically when he quarreled with the Chevalier
Rohan, a member of one of Frances leading families. Voltaire, who was beaten
by the chevaliers servants, contemplated calling the Chevalier out for a duel, but
he was again imprisoned in the Bastille for being a threat to public order. He was
released after a month on the condition that he leave Paris, and he spent the
next three years in England.
Upon the publication of Lettres philosophiques (1734), Voltaire was condemned
by the Parliament of Paris as offensive to politics and religion. A warrant was
soon issued for his arrest. He went into hiding at Cirey.
When the War of the Austrian Succession broke out in 1742, Voltaire was sent
on a secret mission to rally the King of Prussia to the French cause. This act

restored his favor with Louis XV, and he was appointed court biographer at
Versailles. His period of favor at Louis court ended in 1747 amid indiscretions of
his affair with Mme du Chatelet, and the two were forced to flee.
Voltaire faced the greatest crisis of his life when he witnesses Mme du Chatelets
death in childbirth in 1749. Devastated by her death, he accepted the invitation of
Frederic of Prussia to join him in Berlin. At Fredericks court he brawled with a
compatriot, Maupertius, on whom he then based a satire which was immediately
burned on Fredericks orders. His clashes with Frederick caused Voltaire to leave
Berlin in 1753, and he was held under house arrest by Prussian authorities. Louis
XV forbade hi8m entrance to Paris, and he eventually settle in Geneva.
Voltaire wrote two major historical studies, Le sicle de Louis XIV (1751) and
Essai sur les Moeurs (1755), which traced the history of the world from the end of
the Roman Empire and was designed to show how humanity was slowly heading
beyond barbarism. In 1755, the devastating earthquake struck Lisbon, and the
next year he published Pome sur le desastre de Lisbonne. Candide followed in
January or February of 1759.
Voltaire spent the last twenty years of his life in Geneva at his estate where he
wrote essays, participated in politics, and corresponded with royalty,
philosophers, and actors. Voltaires fame was worldwide: He was called the
Innkeeper of Europe and welcomed at Ferney such literary figures as Giovani
Casanova, Edward Gibbon, and the Prince de Ligne. Appalled by the barbarism
of the French authorities, Voltaire devoted the rest of his life to defending the
miscarriages of justice.
THE PLAY SET TO MUSIC
In the 1950s, when Bernstein and the writer Lillian Hellman conceived the idea of
a musical Candide, they saw strong parallels between the time of Voltaire and
the contemporary American scene. In the aftermath of World War II, the USA
was supremely confident of its own importance, its political system and its place
in the world order, and many of its citizens felt that, in spite of various problems,
they were indeed living in 'the best of all possible worlds'.
Yet an evil was lurking - the evil that came to be known as McCarthyism.
Scarcely less ominous than the dreaded Spanish Inquisition that Candide
revisits, McCarthyism resulted in the Hollywood Blacklist, censorship, lost
livelihoods, suicides, loss or denial of passports. You only had to be suspected of
having once known a suspected Communist to be immediately placed under
suspicion. Bernstein was denied a passport by his own government - as Voltaire
had been by his. So Candide was the vehicle chosen to ridicule and satirize, to
create controversy and to stimulate discussion.

Candide opened on Broadway in 1956 as a collaboration between Bernstein and


Hellman, with the lyricist John LaTouche. There have been various revisions over
the years, and notable subsequent contributors in one way or another have been
Richard Wilbur, Dorothy Parker, Hugh Wheeler, Hal Prince and Stephen
Sondheim. Over the years, Candide went through a number of different versions,
revisions and productions by different people. Then in December 1989, Bernstein
himself brought Candide to London, conducting concert performances with the
London Symphony at the Barbican Centre.
Cast of Candide

Candide (tenor)
Voltaire/Pangloss (baritone or tenor; he doubles with several other
characters, including the Governor.)
Maximilian (baritone, but can be played by a tenor
Cunegonde (soprano)
Paquette (alto) Although a major character in Voltaire's novella and all
revivals of the show, she is a walk-on part with only one line in the stage
version.)
Old Woman (alto)
Martin (baritone)
Cacambo (baritone)

The overture is a brilliantly witty and tuneful orchestral showpiece which is often
played on its own as a concert overture.
Act I
Act I opens with a 'scene of sweet simplicity' at a castle in Westphalia (for
Westphalia, of course, read USA). Candide is the illegitimate nephew of the
Baron and is treated as inferior by the fat Baroness and the incredibly vain and
narcissistic son and heir, Maximilian. Candide is deeply in love with Maximilian's
sister, the beautiful Cunegonde. The pure and innocent Candide is serenely
happy in his world of happiness and love. Even the pretty young servant
Paquette is happy with the attentions of her mistress, the Baroness, and the
rather different attentions of her master, the Baron.
In this idyll everyone is happy - Maximilian with his good looks, Cunegonde with
her wealth and beauty, and Candide with his simple, idle pursuits of horse-riding
and reading. They have been taught to be happy by their tutor, the great
philosopher Dr Pangloss. In class, Pangloss teaches that this is, indeed, the best
of all possible worlds. Even war is a blessing in disguise, as it levels all men,
uniting rich and poor, and thus improving human relations. So they all declare:

We have learned, and understood,


Everything that is, is good;
Everything that is, is planned,
Is wisely planned, is right and good.
The sight of Dr Pangloss giving Paquette some very private tuition in the bushes
inspires Candide and Cunegonde to declare their love for each other and their
plans for future happiness, in the duet 'O Happy We'. While Candide dreams of
raising chickens and growing cabbages, Cunegonde's dreams are of riches and
luxury, yachts and jewels and champagne. They are both so happy.
But the Baron is furious. Candide, his illegitimate nephew, is not a nobleman and
ranks far beneath the social standing of the Baron's daughter, Cunegonde. How
dare this upstart embrace her and declare his love? Candide is thrown out of the
castle, to wander alone and lovelorn. But is he despondent? Of course not! He
has been carefully taught that everything is for the best and 'there is a sweetness
in every woe'. He knows people will be kind to him.
Candide is forced to join the Bulgarian army. He tries to desert, but is recaptured
and severely beaten up by his comrades. By the time he is just able to start to
walk again, war is declared. Westphalia is a battle zone. At prayer in their castle,
the Baron and his family are attacked, massacred, cut to pieces. Cunegonde is
molested before being bayoneted. Candide sings a lament as he searches
among the ruins for her corpse and bids it a last farewell.
Time goes by and Candide wanders, alone and starving. He comes across an
old man in a truly terrible state - a syphilitic whose extremities are rotting away,
and who has to wear a tin nose. There is nevertheless something familiar about
him: it is none other than Candide's old philosophy teacher, Dr Pangloss. He has
somehow been brought back to life, and cheerfully explains his present condition
in the song 'Dear Boy'.
Pangloss explains that he caught syphilis by an entirely natural process: love.
And because love is divine, any side-effects can only be for the good. He goes
on to point out that if Columbus had not ventured to the New World and brought
syphilis back to Europe, life would lack all sorts of luxuries:
All bitter things conduce to sweet,
As this example shows;
Without the little spirochaete
We'd have no chocolate to eat
Nor would tobacco's fragrance greet
The European nose.

In any case, Pangloss continues, love - the great goddess whom all men worship
- knows no boundaries or frontiers, so venereal disease naturally 'rounds the
world from bed to bed, as pretty as you please'.
Candide and Pangloss take ship bound for Lisbon. The ship is wrecked in a
storm, but they manage to stagger onto the Portuguese shore just as a volcano
erupts, killing 30,000 people. They are arrested as heretics and sent off to
endure trial by ordeal before the Grand Inquisitor at the Auto-da-f, which is a
great day out for everyone, involving various public tortures, hangings, and
burning at the stake, complete with the usual side-shows and all the fun of the
fair. The crowds sing joyously:
What a day, what a day
For an auto-da-f!
It's a lovely day for drinking
And for watching people fry!
Hurry, hurry, hurry,
Watch 'em die!
The Inquisitors arrive on the scene. Pangloss protests that they can't execute him
as he is too sick to die. He launches into a long patter song explaining how he
got syphilis, and who passed it on to whom as it travelled right round the world
and eventually, as he triumphantly explains, came back to him - thus proving the
universal truth that it is love, sweet love, that makes the world go round. The
Catholic crowd, however, is adamant:
When foreigners like this come
To criticise and spy,
We chant a pax vobiscum,
And hang the bastard high!
Pangloss is hanged. Candide is flogged, but still believes that Pangloss was
right. In his pitiful state Candide decides that if the world appears cruel it must be
because he cannot see the kindness and goodness that must be there. 'It must
be me,' he concludes.
The scene now shifts to Paris, where a mysterious beauty has become the
paramour of both a rich Jew and the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, who share her
favors on alternate days. The mysterious beauty turns out to be Cunegonde, who
sings an operatic tour de force, 'Glitter and Be Gay', a sure-fire showstopper. She
begins by bemoaning her fate, lamenting about how she is forced to sell her body
and her purity in such a sordid way. Yet at the same time she confesses that she
loves all the trappings of wealth, the jewels, the clothes, the champagne, the
social status. So she decides to carry on living the high life, while asking us to
note how brave she is in hiding the deep and bitter shame she says she feels.
Oh yeah?

By a strange coincidence Candide arrives in Paris and recognizes Cunegonde,


his long-lost love. They sing a duet - 'You Were Dead, You Know' - as they
rejoice in their happy reunion. But both the rich Jew and the Archbishop are
approaching. Candide 'accidentally' stabs and kills them both. The Archbishop's
final resting-place is in a great cathedral, the Jew is disposed of in the sewers.
Cunegonde has with her a companion, an old lady known only as the Old Lady,
who now recounts her life story. The daughter of a Polish Pope, she has survived
rape, riots, slavery and cannibalism (one of her buttocks has been sliced off and
eaten). She sings the Old Lady's Tango, 'I Am Easily Assimilated'. This very
catchy number is partly in English and partly in Spanish, and was obviously
personal to Bernstein in view of his father's immigrant origins. Bernstein spoke (in
all apparent seriousness, but definitely with a certain amount of tongue in cheek)
about the line 'My father came from Rovno-Guberniya'. He explained that he had
long wanted to include it, but was unable to find a rhyme for it until, late one
night, he awoke his Chilean-born wife Felicia Montealegre, who came up with the
Spanish line 'me muero, me sale una hernia' ('I'm dying, I'm growing a hernia'),
which fits perfectly. He said that all the Spanish lines in this number are by
Felicia.
Wanted in Paris for the double murder, Candide accepts an offer to go and fight
for the Jesuits in South America, and together with Cunegonde and the Old Lady
takes ship for the New World and, they hope, a new life.
Act II
Act II opens with everyone still convinced that everything is for the best in this
wonderful world. Candide and his two female companions arrive in Buenos Aires
where, unknown to them, both Maximilian and Paquette (miraculously restored to
life) arrive, both disguised as slave-girls. The Governor of Buenos Aires falls in
love with Maximilian then, realising his mistake, falls in love with Cunegonde
instead, and proposes to her. She protests her purity and insists on marriage
before sex.
Maximilian goes off with an amorous Jesuit father, and Candide goes off into the
jungle, having been persuaded by the Old Lady that the police are still after him.
After further bizarre encounters and experiences Candide arrives at a Jesuit
mission, where they urge him to join their flock. There, deep in the jungle, he
amazingly encounters Maximilian once more, and once more declares his love
for Cunegonde and his intention to marry her. Maximilian (now a Jesuit Father
Superior) is outraged, as Candide is socially inferior. Candide unfortunately stabs
Maximilian and kills him, then flees into the jungle once more.
Eventually, lost and starving after further incredible adventures, they come into
the fabulous land of Eldorado. Here all is perfect, yet Candide is still pining for his
love, Cunegonde, and decides to leave. The happy people of Eldorado cannot

understand why, but nevertheless kindly send him on his way laden with gold
and jewels as a parting gift.
Candide arrives in Surinam, where he meets Martin, a professional Pessimist.
Martin believes that everything is absurd in this, the worst of all possible worlds.
Candide refuses to believe this, especially when he is offered a fine sailing ship
bound for Venice, where he hopes to meet Cunegonde once more. He pays a lot
of gold for the ship, but has of course been conned, as it is a rotten hulk and
soon sinks.
Neverthless, Candide somehow makes it to Venice, where it is carnival time greed and corruption at the gaming tables are rife, and everyone is ripping
everyone else off. Paquette is the chief prostitute of Venice, Maximilian
(miraculously re-restored to life) is the corrupt Chief of Police, Cunegonde is
there to attract gamblers to the roulette wheel, and the Old Lady is there to fix the
way the wheel spins.
Cunegonde and the Old Lady, unrecognized by Candide behind their carnival
masks, give him some sob-story and get Candide to promise them a large
handout. Somehow, Pangloss is there too, apparently enjoying a whole bevy of
ladies of the night.
But the masks fall, and Candide realizes the truth. Has he endured all his
hardship and exhausting travels in search of Cunegonde, only to discover that
she is really a greedy and conniving virago? Candide is in deep shock. For many
days he does not speak.
Between them they manage to scrape enough money together to buy a small
farm outside Venice. Cunegonde's nagging goes from bad to worse. So does the
Old Lady's. Pangloss longs for a German university. Paquette continues in the
oldest profession, but no longer makes any money. Gradually they come to
realize that 'Life is neither good nor bad, life is life, and all we know'.
Eventually Candide speaks again. They have all changed, and everything is
different now. They have been foolish and short-sighted, but have learned their
lesson now. As Candide asks Cunegonde to marry him, they all acknowledge:
We're neither pure nor wise nor good,
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.
THE COMPOSER LEONARD BERNSTEIN
I don't want to spend my life, as Toscanini did, studying and restudying the same
fifty pieces of music. It would bore me to death. I want to conduct. I want to play

the piano. I want to write for Hollywood. I want to keep on trying to be, in the full
sense of that wonderful word, a musician.
- Leonard Bernstein, quoted in the New York Times
Leonard Bernstein was a major figure in 20th Century music and brought to its
many facets his considerable verve and dramatic exuberance.
As a conductor he led the New York Philharmonic for many years, producing
outstanding live performances and recordings. He was also in great demand
around the world from many other world-class orchestras such as the Vienna
Philharmonic and the London Symphony.
As a presenter and educator he made classical music accessible to large
numbers of people of all backgrounds and abilities, often for the first time in their
lives. He enormously expanded the global audience for classical music,
popularizing it without ever compromising artistry.
He was also a brilliant concert pianist and a champion of American composers,
particularly Aaron Copland, whose Piano Variations Bernstein often performed as
a young pianist.
But it is as a composer that Bernstein is perhaps best known. His compositions
encompass a wide variety of forms, styles and genres. In addition to works for
musical theatre such as West Side Story, Candide, On The Town and Wonderful
Town, there are symphonies, operas, ballets, songs, choral works and much else
besides.
THE EARLY YEARS
His father, Sam Bernstein, came to America from Eastern Europe at the age of
16. Sam, a rabbi's son, got a job as a fish cleaner on the Lower East Side of
Manhattan, working a 72-hour week for a few dollars. From there he graduated to
sweeping the floor in his uncle's barber shop in Hartford, Connecticut, and
gradually worked his way up to become a reasonably well-to-do businessman.
The only musicians Sam had known in his boyhood had been klezmers - poor
itinerants who would play at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Sam didn't want his son
to be a musician.
Louis Bernstein was born on 25 August 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. There
being another Louis in the family, however, he soon came to be known by
everybody as Leonard. His father always hoped that Leonard would pursue a
business career.

Leonard showed early musicality, however, and as well as playing the piano he
showed great interest in the theatre, and during his teens adapted and produced
shows such as The Mikado, and even played the female title role in Carmen.
INFLUENCES
As his remarkable talents emerged, Leonard Bernstein went on to study at
Harvard with Walter Piston, then at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia with Fritz
Reiner and Randall Thompson, then with Serge Koussevitsky at the Berkshire
Music Institute at Tanglewood.
At the age of 19 Bernstein went to hear the Boston Symphony conducted by
Dmitri Mitropoulos and was completely captivated. Mitropoulos, in his turn, was
so impressed on hearing Bernstein play a piano sonata at a reception the next
day that he invited Bernstein to come to his rehearsals and concerts. During that
period Bernstein became hooked on conducting. Mitropoulos later sent Bernstein
some money to come and spend the next winter vacation with him in
Minneapolis, and Sam Bernstein later recalled that this was a turning-point in his
son's life.
Another important influence on Bernstein's multi-faceted musicianship was
George Gershwin. Gershwin had achieved fame and success as a brilliant
pianist, as an enormously successful and popular Broadway composer, and also
as a composer of 'serious' music such as his piano concerto and the opera Porgy
and Bess.
Indeed, the thesis that Bernstein produced at Harvard had much to say about the
way Gershwin crossed the cultural divide between classical and popular music
and brought the jazz idiom and the symphony orchestra together in an entirely
natural way. Gershwin's sudden death in 1937 came as a great shock to
Bernstein.
The composer Aaron Copland was also a major figure in Bernstein's life.
Copland, too, brought the traditional and folk elements of American music to bear
upon the Classical and Romantic European styles, and created works that, to
many people, seem to sum up what it is to be American.
Copland's taking Bernstein under his wing boded well for Bernstein's future
success, and later Bernstein was in turn to become a passionate advocate of
Copland's compositions. Bernstein's amazingly vital performances of Copland's
works contributed greatly to their appreciation and success.
In the late 1930s the Russian-born Serge Koussevitsky, Music Director of the
Boston Symphony, was probably the most highly acclaimed American conductor.
In 1940 Koussevitsky launched the enduringly successful Berkshire Music Center
at Tanglewood, a symposium of the finest composers and performers working

with the most promising students during the summer season. The highlight was a
masterclass in conducting led by Koussevitsky himself. Bernstein was one of
only five students chosen to participate. He became Koussevitsky's star pupil,
and was groomed to become his eventual successor.
BERNSTEIN AS A CONDUCTOR
After completing his studies Bernstein was out of work, taking such odd musical
jobs as he could find in New York. But Koussevitsky recommended Bernstein for
the job of Assistant Conductor at the New York Philharmonic. This was not as
grand as it might sound. Apart from conducting the occasional concert, which
both press and public routinely ignored, the job of the Assistant Conductor was
mainly to understudy the Principal Conductor so that he could take over if
needed. This was most unlikely and hadn't happened for many years.
In November, 1943 the great conductor Bruno Walter was to conduct a concert. It
would be the highlight of the whole season and Bernstein had brought his
parents to New York to attend the concert. But Walter fell ill and the chief
conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinsky, was called upon to
substitute. Rodzinsky told them to call Bernstein, at 9am, for a concert to be
broadcast live to millions that same afternoon on national radio.
The concert program was a difficult one, but one that the orchestra had already
played several times under Bruno Walter and knew well. Bernstein could fairly
easily have coasted along, following this highly experienced orchestra and no
doubt producing a satisfactory performance.
But that is not what happened. Bernstein created something entirely fresh and
new. Those diehard musicians of the New York Philharmonic stood and cheered.
The audience went wild. The tremendous ovation seemed never-ending. The
occasion was front page news in the next day's New York Times.
The event proved to be the start of Bernstein's long and illustrious career as a
conductor and recording artist. Having become the youngest person ever to
conduct a Philharmonic subscription concert, this 25-year-old American was well
on the way to dominating a scene which until then had been very much the
preserve of old men from Europe. Sam Bernstein later wryly observed, 'How
could I have known that my son would grow up to be Leonard Bernstein?'

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. The original title of Candide was Candide, ou loptimisme (Candide, or


Optimism). How does Voltaire deal with the question of optimism in
Candide?

2. Voltaire considered himself an historian; in 1731 he wrote History of


Charles XII, King of Sweden, and in 1751 he published a cultural history,
The Age of Louis XIV. Is Candide also an historical work? Did Voltaire
intend it to be so?

3. How is religion satirized in Candide? Who does Voltaire show as the one
good Christian in Candide?

4. What are Voltaires views of good and bad governments?

5. How does Candide reflect the concerns of the Enlightenment, including


humanism, secularism, freedom, morality, and education?

6. For whom did Voltaire write Candide? What was his intended audience?

7. How does Voltaire view human nature?

8. What is Voltaires view of the natural world in Candide?